Avari Towers, Banyan trees, birth of a nation, Civil Lines, clay shingles, colonial house, Delhi, East Pakistan, estranged wife, Fatima Jinnah Road, Flagstaff House, grand balcony, limestone masonry, MAJ, Mr Jinnah, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, New England, Pakistan, perfectly symmetrical façade, Quaid-i-Azam Museum, Quran, renovated gardens, Ruttie, semi-circular balconies, Shayan Shakeel, two-toned leather shoes
Traffic rages, horns blare and rickshaws sputter; but across the Avari Towers on Fatima Jinnah Road, Flagstaff House, now known as the Quaid-i-Azam Museum, sits in silent memory of a great man.
Old and Grand… Bought for Rs 115,000 in 1944, the colonial house features limestone masonry, clay shingles and semi-circular balconies. The façade is perfectly symmetrical with a grand balcony splitting the two flanks of the House; before the rest of the Civil Lines area was developed, the view from the upper deck, with a lush garden before it, must have been picture perfect.
A garden of greenery… After rain, the renovated gardens might well remind you of a cosy corner in New England. Banyan trees older and taller than the House grace the front lawn where you can park yourself on log-hewn benches and watch squirrels as they scurry from fern to fern. Not many folks seem to visit the Museum leaving you with all the peace you need to sit back and wonder at the proportions of the flag which flies in front of the House.
Memories of Bombay… The House was to be where Mr Jinnah would live after retirement, and to make it seem like home, most of his belongings were brought there from Bombay. Not everything in the House dates to 1947, but many of the artefacts do: the aging carpets, the sofas under the stairs, the ashtray marked ‘MAJ’, and the mantles depicting the newly carved state of Pakistan (including East Pakistan).
The room… A single bed lies in the centre of Mr Jinnah’s room which is on the second floor and across from his sister’s room. The natural light filtering in from the windows adds emphasis to the sparse interiors. But three details give the room all the character it needs: a Quran, his two-toned leather shoes with shoe trees to help keep them in shape and a picture of Ruttie, his estranged wife, which is placed on the night table next to his bed – it is the only picture of her in the House.
In a nutshell… Although Mr Jinnah never managed to spend his retirement in Flagstaff House, it is well worth a visit to be reacquainted with the man that made the birth of a nation his life’s purpose.
– Shayan Shakeel
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First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 30, 2012.